In 1994, as a field staffer in Cuyahoga County, the day after the election was so depressing, all I wanted to do was see Bill Clinton on the TV. It was a strange, helpless feeling. Today, I kinda had the same feeling when Barack Obama came out to the East Room for a press conference after taking, in his words, “a shellacking”.
When Clinton held the same press conference in 1994, Democrats had lost both the House and Senate. In Ohio, it was our Rob Burch year, when ODP nearly lost major party status because Burch’s 25% was so catastrophic. Every statewide office went Republican by a landslide, including Howard Metzenbaum’s Senate seat, and a bunch of US House seats, including Eric Fingerhut, whose opponent that year, Steve LaTourette, is still with us. It was also the year that Frank Cremeans beat Ted Strickland in OH-06. Bob Ney was elected that year. So was Steve Chabot.
Almost immediately, it became the fashion to ask whether or not Bill Clinton, even the presidency itself, was “relevant” anymore.
Compared to 1994, last night isn’t nearly as bad. Democrats still hold the US Senate. Ted Strickland nearly won re-election, and but for Lee Fisher, certainly would have. Our down ballot statewides were much closer than they were in 1994. The 5 US House seats we lost are the ones we tend to lose, and Steve Driehaus was way closer to Chabot than anyone predicted. Even Lee’s 19 point loss compared to Joel Hyatt’s US Senate loss in 1994 isn’t all that bad – Hyatt’s loss by 14 to Mike DeWine would have been by 21 but for a protozoan early Pleistocean era teabagger on the ticket who puled 7 points from DeWine.
In short, for the White House, the Ohio result in 2010, while really bad, wasn’t as bad as Bill Clinton’s Ohio result in 1994. Not even close.
Clinton went on to take Ohio in 1996 comfortably, with a sitting Republican governor, every statewide office in Republican hands except for John Glenn’s US Senate seat, and an Ohio Democratic Party that had less than two years to rebuild from nearly hitting minor party status.
How did that happen? First, ODP began rebuilding immediately, replacing chairman Harry Meshel with David Leland, who focused almost exclusively on fundraising. The economy turned around. The first Clinton budget began to visibly restore fiscal sanity to the federal government.
Republicans overreached in Congress, as they certainly will do again, except this time with a flair of total insanity only a teabagger can imagine. Bob Dole became the poster child for the Republican Congress, morphing into Newt Gingrich in ad after ad. Sarah Palin, whether she runs for president as a Republican, an independent, or not at all, will do all that work by her pretty little self, helped along by a cast of characters that make Gingrich look like a statesman.
And after 1994, Bill Clinton stayed Bill Clinton.
After watching him today, I’m pretty confident that Barack Obama is going to stay Barack Obama.
Chin up, Ohio Democrats. It’s not as bad as you think.